How to Treat Jalapeño Hands

By Emma Christensen and Andrea Rivera Wawrzyn | March 22nd, 2024

The secret to stopping burning hands after you cut hot peppers


a knife with whole and sliced jalapeño peppers on a cutting board. Image by Jacqueline Nix. Article on healing jalapeño hands

I love spicy food. I add hot sauce to more meals than not and will toss chopped hot peppers into anything from classic guacamole to tuna salad. The dark side of my spicy life is the looming specter of burning fingertips — the dreaded jalapeño hands.

6 handy tools for soothing the burn

Next time you forget the gloves and wind up feeling like your fingers are on fire, reach for these six helpful pantry items to get the jalapeño off your hands, most of which are probably in your kitchen right now.

1. Dish soap

If it can cut through oil and grease on our dishes, it can do the same for our hands! Most dish soaps have oil-dissolving properties that are above and beyond regular hand soap.

2. Rubbing alcohol

Chili oil is more soluble in alcohol than in water, so a good splash of rubbing alcohol can help wash it away. High-proof liquor like vodka can also work in a pinch.

3. Whole milk or yogurt

This one has a whiff of urban legend about it, but then again, chili pepper is also more soluble in fats and oils than it is in water, so maybe it would work. Advice on several internet forums say to pour the milk or yogurt into a bowl and soak your hands until the burning sensation stops.

4. Oil

Rubbing vegetable or olive oil into your skin can help to dilute capsaicin and relieve the burning sensation. Rub a good amount into your skin and follow up with a soap and water wash.

5. Vinegar

Acidity can help neutralize capsaicin. Pour it over your hands or the skin of the affected area and then wash with soap and water.

6. Cornstarch or baking soda

Make a thick paste with one of these pantry staples and a bit of water, apply to the affected area, and let dry. Once dry you can wash with soap and water.

What are “jalapeño hands”?

Chiles contain a compound called capsaicin, which gives them their spice. Cutting hot peppers releases their capsaicin, which can get onto your hands and create an unpleasant burning or stinging sensation sometimes referred to as “jalapeño hands.” Capsaicin doesn’t actually burn your skin, but it does trigger your body’s pain receptors. It can, however, cause irritation, especially in sensitive areas like the eyes, nose, and mouth.

How to prevent jalapeño hands

The most surefire way to avoid jalapeño hands is to wear a pair of disposable gloves while cutting hot peppers. Even if you’re wearing gloves, you should wash your hands with warm water and soap after handling hot peppers, as oils that contain capsaicin may get inadvertently transferred to your skin when removing them.

The burning sensation from capsaicin doesn’t always appear right away, so if you handle hot peppers without protective gloves it’s important to wash your hands immediately, whether you’re feeling the burn or not. Additionally, don’t forget about cross-contamination. Wash your knife and cutting board thoroughly after chopping hot peppers to avoid spicy oils making their way onto other ingredients or tools.

How to rinse jalapeño from your eyes

One of the most painful places capsaicin can migrate to is your eyes. Always be mindful when handling hot peppers not to touch your face. If you happen to get some of the pepper’s oils in your eyes however, the best thing to do is flush your eyes with warm water repeatedly.

Make sure your hands are completely clean and pepper-oil-free before flushing your eyes, otherwise, you could introduce even more capsaicin to an already uncomfortable situation. If you happen to be wearing contacts, don’t try to save them. It’s better to discard them than to risk re-introducing capsaicin to your eyes.


Hot recipes for spicy delights:

Smoked Nachos

7-Layer Black Bean Dip


Emma Christensen is a former editor and Andrea Rivera Wawrzyn is associate food editor for TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to editorial@thekitchn.com.

©2024 Apartment Therapy. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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